Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I have recently been asked a few times why I stopped blogging over on my rainbow blog. I guess truthfully, I felt like what I had to say was becoming a little repetitive. I felt uninspired. Given our recent circumstances, it only seems fitting to pick back up where I left off at this blog.
It's been a busy year. We kicked it off with a family ski trip to Colorado and my husband broke his leg and shattered his tibial plateau aka knee. Getting him through the airport and back home all the while meeting the needs of a 2 year old was trying at best but we rocked it. Grayson was on his best behavior and brought a lot of joy to the trial. Jason had to have surgery soon after we returned home and they placed all kinds of metal and screws in his leg to hold it all together. They weren't sure he would ever even walk again. Thankfully, our family feels exceptionally challenged to overcome odds against us. I mean seriously, tell us we can't and we will show you we can. Even the little one is this way. It was a long recovery but he eventually did walk again, praise God. Some days now I almost even forget it happened. I gained a lot of respect for my husband. I can't call him a big baby anymore, because he was pretty tough throughout the ordeal. He was down for about 3 months.
Soon after that, we dove right into an IVF cycle. We had been hoping to try for another baby a year earlier than we actually did. Between finances and his injury, it just didn't happen. At the beginning of May, we got the ball rolling. I started my birth control pills to get my body on schedule. By July, I was up to my neck in injectable hormones and medications. The cycle itself was the worst yet as far as inconvenience and physical discomfort. There were so many ups and downs. Once, we had 30 minutes to drop everything, pack a bag and rush to Dallas to make it to the office before they closed. It was in order to change a medication to prevent my entire cycle from being canceled due to overstimulation. Thankfully we made it and I didn't end up with a canceled cycle or OHSS. We were able to retrieve the eggs, but because of my risk for OHSS we couldn't transfer any resulting embryos at that time as previously planned.
Our retrieval was July 22, 2015. At the end, the IVF cycle resulted in 13 eggs. Twelve of them were mature and 7 of them successfully fertilized with ICSI. Out of the 7, 3 embryos continued to develop and were healthy enough to make it to cryopreservation.
Deep breath. Mission accomplished. Pause. Breathe. Go to Turks and Caicos.
Now that we had our three embryos, it was time to start the Frozen Embryo Transfer cycle. More birth control pills to get my body on schedule, more injections, more pills, patches, etc. On September 11, we transferred 2 beautiful embryos. Three days later, on September 14, I got my first positive pregnancy test.
SIGH OF RELIEF.
The rest of September was incredible. A week after I got my positive test, my best friend found out she was also expecting. Too perfect! Everything was going so smoothly and lab results were all coming back great. My HCG levels were more than doubling. My first ultrasound at 5w2d showed a sac and fetal pole. The very next day I began bleeding. My doctor wasn't very concerned and said its pretty normal in early pregnancy. I was told to put my feet up and call if I started cramping or bleeding heavily. It progressively lightened up until it went away. At 6 weeks, it returned. I called my doctor and they scheduled me for an ultrasound scan at 6w2d. I was nervous but as soon as the baby was on the screen we saw a little flicker. Her heart was beating strong to be so early. We got to hear her heartbeat and the doctor assured us that things were fine. He asked us to return the following week to check things one more time.
I continued bleeding until the next scan at 7w2d. This time, my doctor was studying the ultrasound screen pretty hard and Jason was silent. After what felt like forever, my doctor turned the screen toward me and I saw what was so baffling. There were 2 sacs. This was a twin pregnancy. However, one of the babies failed to develop. This explained the bleeding. I was sad at the thought of one baby not making it, but I was relieved to hear the strong heartbeat of the remaining twin. We finally had the answer to the bleeding that we had been praying for.
My final ultrasound with my fertility specialist was at 8w5d. At that ultrasound, the bleeding had stopped and it appeared that the second sac had been "reabsorbed" by my body. Again, our baby had a strong heartbeat. Finally, I took a sigh of relief. After hearing the heartbeat the chances of a healthy pregnancy are 90%. Smooth sailing.
At 9 weeks 2 days, I had my first nurse visit at my OB office. I had labs drawn including the panorama testing. Things were good. I was really getting comfortable with this whole thing at this point.
At 10w1d, I heard her heartbeat with the fetal Doppler. YES! We had made it to double digits.
At 10w5d, my OB called to let us know the panorama results were in. Everything came back low risk. None of the most common chromosomal problems would affect our baby. Plus, IT'S A GIRL! This was really it. Things were progressing well and the first trimester was almost over with no real risk factors. I took my final sigh of relief.
At 11w3d, my MIL and I decided to go shopping for this sweet new baby girl. We went overboard buying everything pink and girly that we could get our hands on. I scheduled an ultrasound appointment with Julie for that afternoon. She is the one who did all of my scans during my IVF. This was likely the last time we would see the baby before my 20 week scan. We were so excited.
I got comfy on the table. We were all so excited. Julie started the ultrasound machine. There was radio silence. I had seen my baby's heartbeat three times at this point, so I was concerned when I didn't this time. I thought maybe she was just turned awkwardly so it would take a minute to locate it. I think Julie was hoping the same. I could tell she was desperately trying to find it. She then asked "Who is your doctor?" Too much time had passed and I knew that wasn't a question she would've asked without cause. I knew something wasn't right. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I wasn't seeing on the screen. I knew my daughter should have been moving at that point too. All I could muster up was a soft whisper. "What's wrong?" She replied with "There's no heartbeat."
STUNNED. I didn't cry. I did nothing. Nothing. I was perfectly still, inside and out. Julie was crying, my mother in law was crying. There I was, sitting there blankly staring at the screen while pure shock took over my body.
Julie tried for 45 minutes to find any sign of life in our daughter's body. She tried everything. She looked so hard that we even located the yolk sac from her twin that we thought was already gone. There was no blood flow, there was no heartbeat, there was no movement. There was just the perfect profile of a perfectly still baby. My daughter. My baby had died. My Evelyn Grace was more real than ever, laying lifeless inside of my body.
I was in so much shock that I drove myself home from Tyler. No tears. I just got in the car and left like nothing had happened. I just drove straight to my son's school. From the time I got to his school, which happens to also be our church, God placed the people I needed directly in my path. As soon as I pulled up, I saw a dear friend. I just walked over to her and in my shock blurted out the words "My baby died. My baby is dead." She gave me a huge hug and finally the tears came. They were still not tears sufficient enough for the pain I was feeling, but they were tears nonetheless. She walked me into the school where our pastor happened to be walking out of his office. I asked if we could talk and he prayed for us. When I went into my son's classroom, his teacher (also a lifelong family friend) immediately knew something was wrong so I told her what happened and cried so hard on her shoulder. When I looked up, a circle of support from several amazing women was surrounding me. My son walked over and gave me the biggest hug and held me for at least ten minutes. I know God was with me.
G and I left his school. I still had the task of telling Jason weighing on me. This wasn't something I could tell him over the phone. Truthfully, I knew this would forever change his life like it already had mine. I wanted to give him a little bit longer to remain oblivious. It wasn't something we could change. I waited for him to come home from work. It was one of those odd decisions I made as a result of my shock. When he came home, I told him they couldn't find her heartbeat at the ultrasound and he said "well that's kind of scary" and I said "No, I mean she died." Then he proceeded to do exactly what I did when I found out. Pure shock. Silence. Blank stares. Grayson hugs.
...and then we took our son to Chuck E Cheese. Because humans do weird things when in shock. We also had promised him we would that very morning. Completely oblivious to what the day would bring, we made him that promise and we intended to keep it.
The next morning (Wednesday) we had an appointment to discuss options with my OB. Waiting on that table, it all came crashing down. I had my first extreme panic attack. I started hyperventilating, my chest was hurting, tears were just pouring out. It was terrible. Terrible. My doctor told me it could take weeks for my body to realize she had died and miscarry naturally. WEEKS. News to me. I thought I'd start bleeding any minute. My other losses were early on so it was basically just like starting a new cycle physically. We scheduled a final ultrasound for the next Monday. I went home. I waited with my lifeless baby inside of me. I knew she wasn't with us anymore, but I treasured those last days knowing that may very well be the last time I ever carry another human being inside of my body. I was emotionally numb. Confused.
Monday rolled around and the ultrasound showed no growth, no heartbeat, no signs of life. I opted to go with Cytotec to induce. I picked up my prescription that would end it all. It was $5.30. It felt like such a slap in the face. It takes us months of injections and medications, ultrasounds, labs, being poked and prodded constantly and approximately $20,000 to even have a chance at conceiving a baby. Yet it costs $5.30 to end it all in a few hours. FIVE DOLLARS AND THIRTY CENTS TO END A PREGNANCY.
I placed the medication a little before 3pm. Miraculously, I had no pain. I woke up at about 1:30am knowing that it had begun. At about 1:40 I started shaking uncontrollably and having cold sweats. At 1:49am, our daughter was born in our bathroom at home.
There was a sense of calm. A perfect peace only God could give in a moment like this.
She was still inside of her sac. I opened it and I cut her umbilical cord. She was three inches long and fit in the palm of my hand. She had a smile on her face. She had perfectly formed fingers and toes. She had eyes, ears, a nose and every vital organ was already formed. Every body part was present. She was a baby, my baby, in every way. I stared at her in awe. I took photos. I held her. I just held her. I prayed.
In the following days, we said our goodbyes. My son amazed me with how he handled her and the entire process. We had a private gathering with our immediate families to bury her next to my Grandaddy.
Emotionally, reality finally began to sink in. I won't ever see her again in this lifetime. I struggle. I'm up one day and I'm down the next. I'm unpredictable. I cry. I watch life go on around me and I feel like I am stuck in a moment. I genuinely miss her. I have a craving for her. I could tell you on any given day exactly how old she would be now. Nothing has made me pray "Jesus come quick" quite like this has.
Yet on the other hand, I know I've been given the gift of perspective. While it's unbearably painful, I know I serve a God who will make good come of terrible tragedies. It has been my prayer from the very beginning of the IVF that God's will be done. I prayed for Him to let whatever would bring Him the most glory happen. I've chosen to be open about this experience like many past experiences in hopes that this helps someone or changes someone's life. No life is too short to make a difference. She was with us for a short time for a reason. Truth be told, if one person finds Christ because of her loss then it's worth it. She's already won. She's exactly where we all want to be. I am so thankful to have the assurance of seeing her again one day. I know she is with our creator and I never have to worry about her now.
In memory of Evelyn Grace: